Before Midnight 12

If you’re both 1) desperate for some distraction from the holiday hubbub and 2) eager to get a leg up on the rest of your office for the annual Oscar pool, here’s a way to kill two birds with one stone.

Over thirty screenplays for some of 2013′s top films have just been made available, legally and for free, through the studios. Highlights include John Ridley‘s 12 Years a Slave, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy‘s Before Midnight, Terence Winter‘s The Wolf of Wall Street, and many more.

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Left to his own devices Lee Daniels makes films that are eccentric and sometimes just way the hell out there. (The Paperboy) But he has called his newest film, The Butler, “a big compromise” and explained that the film might be “the closest I will come to as a work-for-hire.” Does that mean that, on the relative scale of whackadoo films, The Butler will be far closer to “normal” than anything else he’s made?

Hard to say at this point, but the first trailer suggests that there’s some weird stuff going on here. There’s the parade of cameo players appearing as a string of US Presidents. Among them is John Cusack‘s turn as Richard Nixon, which is… interesting. Then there’s Alex Pettyfer playing an uber-douchebag cotton farm overseer, and the digital effects and makeup that shave a few decades off lead Forest Whitaker in some scenes.

Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, who served several different President as the White House butler, and the trailer suggests the film traces his entire life story, using it to frame the sweep of the civil rights movement. It’s a good story, but this trailer looks a lot like a parody that might show up on SNL. So we’ll see — maybe The Butler will be just as crazy as the rest of Daniels’ work. Read More »

It took a couple of years after Precious for director Lee Daniels to get cameras rolling on his follow-up, the lurid Southern melodrama The Paperboy, but he’s barely even taking a breather before heading into his next picture. Even as The Paperboy gears up for its theatrical run, Daniels has already started shooting The Butler with Forest Whitaker in the lead as longtime White House servant Eugene Allen.

Although the film’s drawn quite a bit of attention in recent months for its star-studded cast, which includes Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Terrence Howard, and many, many more, the first official still is a simple one of Whitaker at work. Check it out after the jump.

UPDATE: We now also have photos of James Marsden and Minka Kelly in costume as John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. See them after the jump.

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Precious director Lee Daniels is putting together The Butler, and he’s handing Robin Williams a razor before signing him on to the film. Williams is now set to play former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the movie, which traces the true story of Eugene Allen, who served in the White House for three decades, through eight presidencies. This will be Williams’ second Presidential turn, after playing a fanciful version of Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum films. It also appears to be part of one of those good stretches Williams hits every once in while, where he goes for gigs that are more serious than broad. Read More »

Even as Lee Daniels‘ follow-up to Precious, The Paperboy, makes its debut at Cannes this week, the filmmaker’s wasting no time assembling a stellar cast for his next project, The Butler. The talented Forest Whitaker leads the picture as Eugene Allen, the late White House butler who served under eight different presidents from 1952 through 1986, with Oprah Winfrey and rising star David Oyelowo signed to play his wife and son.

And the cast only gets more buzzworthy from there. The roster also includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Nicole Kidman, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, and John Cusack. Now we can add Minka Kelly to the list as well, as Daniels says he’s cast her to play Jackie Kennedy to Matthew McConaughey‘s John F. More after the jump.

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Briefly: For anyone who doubted, Lee Daniels just proved that he has a sense of humor, perhaps even an impish sense of provocation. The director of Precious and the upcoming film The Paperboy is assembling The Butler, about Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served presidents from Harry Truman in 1952 to Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Forest Whitaker is almost set to play Allen, and there is a large cast assembling to support him: Oprah Winfrey as his wife, David Oyelowo as his son, and Liam Neeson and John Cusack as Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.

And now Daniels has cast Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. Read More »

A couple years ago, Precious director Lee Daniels went back and forth on the idea of filming the life of longtime White House servant Eugene Allen for the movie The Butler, or making a civil rights drama called Selma. In the end, he made neither, choosing instead to shoot The Paperboy with Zac Efron, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, based on Peter Dexter’s novel of the same name.

But with that film complete, Daniels has cycled back around to The Butler, and is in the process of casting the film. We’ve heard about quite a few possible actors (Hugh Jackman, Oprah Winfrey, Liam Neeson), some of whom were set for roles in Selma before that project died. The only casting that seemed close to set for The Butler was David Oyelowo, who was said to have the title role.

Now Oyelowo is still in talks for the movie, but it looks like he’ll play Allen’s son, instead of the title character. In the lead role is likely to be played by Forest Whitaker. Read More »

In the months that followed the release and general success of Lee Daniels‘ film Precious, the director considered two follow-ups. One was Selma, a civil-rights drama that would have recreated the relationship between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson. The other was The Butler, about a man named Eugene Allen, who was a servant in the White House starting in 1954 and working through eight presidencies.

Neither of those films ended up happening. Daniels made The Paperboy instead, and that film will be released later this year.

But now Daniels is looking once again at making The Butler. The film isn’t financed at this point, but as he did when originally trying to make Selma, Daniels is puling together a cast. Right now he’s got Hugh Jackman, Mila Kunis and John Cusack, with David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey, who hasn’t acted in a live-action drama since Beloved, as possible additions. Finally, Liam Neeson could end up playing Lyndon B. Johnson, a role he was previously set to play for Selma. Read More »

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